The Inside Scoop
DECEMBER 21-27, 2018
On the fateful night of September 6th of this year, America went to bed learning about the tragic death of 26-year old Dallas resident Botham Jean at the hands of an off-duty police officer who allegedly mistook the St. Lucia native’s apartment for her own and Botham as an intruder, shooting him dead in the purported confusion.
The next morning, the country awoke to wall-to-wall coverage of a press conference called by Dallas officials, that included the city’s police chief who addressed the media standing adjacent to a large poster sitting on an easel of the officer who allegedly fired the deadly shots. That was less than 18 hours after the incident occurred.
Dallas had seen its share of high-profiled shootings in recent times, including a mass shooting perpetrated in public against its own police officers and first responders by an obviously disturbed individual seeking revenge against law enforcement for officer involved shootings.
This time around, officials felt a need to get ahead of the story and talk about the incident, for the sake of full disclosure and transparency. Yet, here we are, a full two weeks after the death of 21-year-old Ricardo Treviño III and the community of San Benito has heard little more from the City than it did the evening the shooting occurred, when City Hall released a brief statement acknowledging that something horrible had occurred in the El Ranchito area. Since then, City Hall has deferred to the Texas Ranger-led investigation, adding that it is awaiting its results before commenting further. But as I noted last week, the City could be doing much more without putting itself in legal jeopardy and without hindering the investigation, such as simply identifying the officers involved in the chase and subsequent shooting which led to Treviño’s death. In fact, that would be relatively standard practice as citied by the example already noted at the top of this column.
Think about it, regardless of what the the Rangers’ report eventually discovers or concludes, in the end, it won’t change what the public needs to know at this time – namely the identities of the law enforcement personnel involved in the incident and their personnel records.
Consequently, it would behoove the City to give the public more information since it’s been my experience that secrecy breeds contempt and suspicion, especially in incidents such as these. The longer the City keeps the information from the public, the more public tends to draw its own conclusions and fills in the blanks with its own details, further mucking up the waters, especially after the City cancelled its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday evening due to the lack of a quorum.
In the end, the City finds itself in a rather precarious position at this stage — a crossroads, of sorts, in which way this entire tragic episode will go from this point forward. As it stands, the City is straddling that fine line between being cautious and being seen as an obstructionist in the public’s eyes, protecting its officers at the expense of being transparent. And we’re already seeing this in people going as far as to allege that Treviño was targeted due to his step-father’s connection with the San Benito Police Department (see story on Page 1), as farfetched as it may seem.
Once again, it all goes to show that the City must realize that if it’s not out there willing to tell its story, others are more than willing it do it for them.